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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (30 April) . . Page.. 239 ..

Visiting Medical Officers - Contracts

MR BERRY: My question is to the Minister for Health. In 1995 the Chief Minister and Minister for Health promised to save around $3m on the then new VMO contracts. As you would recall, Minister, with your help, we subsequently censured the Chief Minister for misleading us when the savings were lost by her mismanagement. As the contracts are now due for renewal, Minister, could you advise us whether any, in fact, have been signed or whether any agreements have been reached? If so, how many? What will be their budget impact? If none of the above has occurred, what negotiations are taking place in relation to the matter?

MR MOORE: Thank you, Mr Berry, for the question. Just yesterday afternoon I looked at a flow chart of how the negotiations with the VMOs were going. To the best of my knowledge, no VMOs have signed the contracts at this stage, although we are in a cusp area; an offer has been made. The current high level of fee-for-service contracts - I think, Mr Berry, you would be aware - is excessive when it is compared with those of other city teaching hospitals. That has been a major problem in our hospital system for some years. I certainly recall very clearly when you were Minister and were negotiating in a very strenuous situation with the VMOs.

Mr Berry: But Mrs Carnell signed the contracts.

MR MOORE: Indeed, I recall that. On 13 March of this year the draft model contracts were sent to VMOs, providing further information on the type of arrangement. Draft contracts offering New South Wales sessional rates were sent to 53 VMOs, advising them to respond by 24 April. The remaining 56 contracts were sent to VMOs between 20 April and 27 April, over the last week. The AMA has advised that it will send a negotiation package to VMOs to help them with their negotiations; and it is considered the negotiation package will slow the response rate from VMOs to offers by the Canberra Hospital.

I must say, through you, Mr Speaker, that I have been passed a note which states that three VMOs have actually already signed. I have only just received a note to that effect from my colleague Mr Humphries, who had responsibility for this portfolio until a couple of days ago. But generally we have not had a response yet; we do not expect it for the next short while. Mr Berry, no doubt you will come back with a similar question to this at the next sitting, and I hope I will be able to provide you with more information.

You did ask me about budget impact. The budget impact that we expect from this is in the millions of dollars. We are talking of a significant sum. My officer has passed me advice that what I said is correct - that three VMOs have signed at the Canberra Hospital and that we think about 15 VMOs are very close to signing. I should also say that I am advised that savings at this stage are unknown.

MR BERRY: I think that would be good advice. Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. I take it that the Minister intends to pursue savings with vigour in respect of these negotiations and contracts. Do the contracts that are already signed undermine the negotiating position in relation to the new contracts?

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